Sunday, December 1, 2013

Bolivian daily reports on its military occupation force in Haiti

LA PAZ ─ The December 1 edition of La Razón, the leading daily newspaper in Bolivia, featured a four-page on-the-spot report (including a page of photos) on Bolivia’s military contingent in the United Nations Stabilization Mission (MINUSTAH) currently occupying Haiti.[1]

Such coverage is rare here; the recent vote in the Plurinational Legislative Assembly to renew Bolivia’s participation in MINUSTAH got only a brief mention, at most, in the country’s media. The motion passed without opposition.

This is Bolivia’s 12th renewal of its military mission in Haiti, an intervention that began in 2004. In one of its first acts the newly elected government of President Evo Morales renewed the force’s mandate in 2006. At the time, only one minister (then Hydrocarbons Minister Andrés Soliz Rada) objected. The mission has been renewed periodically since then, with little public debate.

Bolivia’s contingent numbers 205, most of them soldiers, in a MINUSTAH force that now includes a total of 6,607 soldiers. Brazil’s contingent of 1,200 is the largest among the 19 participating countries.

The articles are completely uncritical of the UN mission and Bolivia’s participation in it. This despite the reporter’s admission that the UN mission originated in a 2004 coup d’état – a fact you might think would provoke some questioning in Bolivia, a country that has probably suffered more coups in its history than any other South American country.

Actually, the reporter refers to “two coups d’état in 2004” and explains he is referring to an action by “irregular militias” as well as to the “deactivation of Haiti’s coercive forces,” although he doesn’t indicate which countries were involved in this “deactivation” – an armed intervention by three imperialist countries (France, the United States and Canada) that removed Haiti’s democratically elected president Jean-Bertrand Aristide and sent him into exile in Africa.

The latter intervention occurred while Aristide was attempting to defend his government against an invasion of the “irregular militias” from the neighboring Dominican Republic. These militias included former officers from the army Aristide had dissolved in 1995 (La Razón misreports as 1993) after it staged a coup against his earlier administration in 1991.

The La Razón report does not explain this sequence of events. But it does claim that there are “still no plans to rebuild the militia.” However, Haitian president Michel Martelly has made no secret of his hopes to reconstitute an army, as he promised to do when he ran for office in 2011.

The report cites the MINUSTAH Force Commander, Brazilian general Edson Leal Pujol, as saying the UN plans to conclude its Haiti mission in 2016. The general says Haiti’s crime rate is now “comparable with that in North America.” But La Razón quotes the Bolivian military commander in Haiti as saying that their specific function is primarily to fight “gangs” in specific localities, and that “there are still red zones like Cité Soleil, considered one of the most dangerous in Port au Prince.”

Among the other tasks of the Bolivian contingent that he cites is “protection of institutions” and the “physical security of important people.”

A separate article in La Razón warns of violence expected in the legislative and municipal elections scheduled for 2014 in Haiti, and quotes a senior Bolivian officer as saying that “special forces” might be brought in to deal with it.

Another article lauds the work of the 12 women in the Bolivian military contingent, “the eyes and ears of MINUSTAH,” who include doctors and nurses working in communities where they attempt to compensate for “the lack of social policies of the present government of Michel Martelly in economy, health and education.”

La Razón reports that the UN contingents from Nepal, Jordan and Uruguay are withdrawing from Haiti during the next year, following similar decisions by Japan and South Korea. But it fails to mention the role of the Nepalese forces in unleashing an unprecedented and devastating cholera epidemic in Haiti or the lawsuit Haitians have launched against the UN as a result.

The newspaper quotes Uruguay’s president José Mujica, however: “If in 10 years we have been unable to solve these issues, it seems obvious to us that there must be another path.”


[1] The three major articles, all by La Razón reporter Luís Mealla, can be accessed here:La ONU prevé concluir la misión de intervención a Haití en 2016; El clima electoral inquieta a las fuerzas de resguardo de la paz; Haití, según los ojos y oídos de la mujer boliviana

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Bolivia’s Enatex, or how state sovereignty intersects with workers’ interests

LA PAZ − My recent post “Bolivian government authorizes workers to take over closed or abandoned firms” was widely reproduced on other web sites. Its publication in the Socialist Project’s Bullet elicited some valuable comments from a number of readers. One such comment, by Sam Gindin, former assistant to the president of the Canadian Auto Workers, I republished with his agreement as a comment to the article on my blog. I replied to Sam in the Bullet piece (see Comment 4).

In another comment “Adam” corrected my reference, in my reply to Sam, to the textile firm Enatex as “a worker-owned ‘social enterprise’.” As he points out, Enatex is state-owned. My confusion stemmed from the statement of the Minister of Labour, at the press conference announcing the new legislation, that more firms like Enatex could be established under the new decree, which purportedly implements a constitutional provision, Article 54, that recognizes the right of workers to “reactivate” companies that are bankrupt or “closed or abandoned without justification.” In fact, Article 54 arguably allows both forms of ownership, state or worker-owned “communitarian or social enterprises,” although the new government decree specifies that the “social enterprises” it envisages will be “private” but provided with state support. In the case of Enatex, the state appoints the top management.

Federico Fuentes, moderator of the blog “Bolivia Rising,” tells me that to his knowledge “at no time have the workers [at Enatex] demanded it be put under workers control.” This does not mean, however, that the Enatex workers are passive. As “Adam” noted, in July they struck the plant for higher wages and for removal of the firm’s general manager. Management was delaying payment of a promised 20% wage increase. The Minister of Productive Development Teresa Morales Olivera met with the workers, granted the increase, and the workers called off their strike after one day.

Neither “Adam” nor I mentioned this, but it turns out that on October 8, the general secretary of Enatex awarded the company’s workers a 100% wage increase, attributing it to increased production and productivity. (It was not an adjustment for inflation, which is currently running in Bolivia at just over 5% annually.)

This additional information suggests that relations between Bolivia’s government and the labour movement are not always as conflicted as “Adam” argues. But there is actually much more to the Enatex story, as it illustrates some of the basic features of the Morales government’s approach as it attempts to negotiate the demands of the various social movements against an overriding commitment to defend and strengthen the country’s sovereignty — which it considers the necessary foundation for further social and economic advance.

The Enatex story, in brief

The company’s roots go back to the mid-1960s, when Ametex, its forerunner, was established first in Oruro, then in La Paz. It soon became a producer of high-quality clothing, and by the 1990s boasted a production capacity of eight million garments per year. According to a recent study by the economic think-tank Fundación Milenio,

“Ametex was a modern industrial complex, possibly the most modern private business in the country, built with the national pride of producing products for export and with responsibility for more than 3,000 highly skilled workers. It was perhaps one of the few examples of an industrial activity that generated both backward and forward linkages. The big US purchasers — Tommy Hilfiger, Polo, Nautica, Lee and others — were very demanding customers for its quality products….”

Much of the company’s US sales in recent years, however, were achieved under the Andean Trade Promotion and Drug Eradication Act (ATPDEA), US legislation that provided duty-free access to the US market for some 6,000 products from Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador and Colombia. The ATPDEA originated in the early 1990s as part of the US “war on drugs,” and was intended to provide these countries with alternative outlets to the production and export of coca and narcotics.

In 2002, the US government suspended Bolivia’s eligibility under the Act and Ametex lost its competitive advantage, the US tariff increasing its costs for export to that market by about 20%. Government subsidies failed to compensate for the loss of markets in the North. And later increased sales to Venezuela, paid in the ALBA currency, the Sucre, produced complex accounting difficulties.

Although the US Congress periodically renewed Bolivia’s eligibility under the ATPDEA, in 2008 — while Bolivia was battling US-supported separatist efforts by its eastern economic elites — Washington decertified Bolivia from continued participation in the Act, alleging that it had failed to cooperate in counter-narcotics efforts. The Morales government predicted that anywhere from 20,000 to 150,000 jobs of Bolivian workers were potentially in danger, most of them in La Paz and its neighbouring city El Alto.

‘Complementarity rather than competitiveness’

Fast-forward to November 2011. After three years of frozen relations (Bolivia had expelled the US ambassador and the Drug Enforcement Agency in 2008) the two countries signed a “framework agreement” to restore diplomatic ties. As Bolivia-based writer Emily Achtenberg reported, the agreement reaffirmed Bolivia’s commitment to voluntarily eradicate excess coca production through social control mechanisms enforced by the cocalero (coca farmers) union federations. But the document said nothing about restoration of tariff protection under any ATPDEA-like legislation, and the Bolivian government insisted that restoration of trade preferences was not a major goal. Achtenberg reported on November 19, 2011:

“Last week, hundreds of textile workers employed by Ametex, Bolivia’s largest textile company, paralyzed downtown La Paz for several days, demanding that the government work to restore tariff protections within the framework of the new bilateral agreement. The company said it would be forced to slash its 2,800 person workforce by 50% due to losses suffered from the decline in exports. The government arranged a $2 million line of credit from the Bank of ALBA—a practical solution unlikely to be replicable by the majority of Bolivian textile firms, which are small and/or family-based.

“While a return to ATPDEA, with its requirement for annual certification of compliance with coca eradication targets, does not seem feasible or desirable, [Foreign Minister David] Choquehuanca insists that Bolivia won’t sign a free trade agreement with the United States to protect manufacturing at the expense of other sectors. Instead, the government will seek to negotiate a new agreement that recognizes the developmental asymmetries between the two countries, based on principles of complementarity rather than competitiveness.

“Whether these aspirations can be realized remains to be seen. In the meantime, the framework agreement provides a powerful symbol of enforced equality between a weak and a powerful nation. Even Morales’s critics agree that his administration has achieved a more dignified and autonomous position relative to the U.S. than have any prior Bolivian governments.”

As these incidents illustrate, the Bolivian government resisted the Ametex workers’ demands for a renewal of preferential trading agreements with the United States because such arrangements would simply replicate a vulnerable market situation at the risk of renewed US interference in Bolivia’s internal development strategies as well as its own particular excess coca eradication policies. The union’s demands reflected only the immediate concerns of increasing market share for their company’s product and protecting jobs without reference to the broader interests of all Bolivian workers and campesinos in lessening the country’s dependency on US markets and US diplomacy.

This is not an unusual pattern in contemporary Bolivia, where many social movements including trade unions tend to focus on defense of their immediate corporate interests while failing to develop a broader anti-imperialist political perspective that alone, in the longer term, can help lead the country beyond capitalism.

In June 2012 the financially troubled Ametex granted the Bolivian government the industrial installations that now function under the name Enatex, to be administered as a public enterprise. As the recent tangled history of industrial relations within the company illustrates, the Enatex employees have not suffered unduly from the government’s control. And the new decree that I reported in my earlier post, offering another possible course of action for workers, reflects the same thinking on the part of the government. In effect, that workers’ jobs cannot come at the expense of national sovereignty, and pointing to an alternative: take over the factory and run it yourselves, with state assistance if necessary.

My thanks to Federico Fuentes, who knows far more about Bolivia than I do, for his valued comments to me on the exchange in The Bullet.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Bolivian government authorizes workers to take over closed or abandoned firms

LA PAZ − On October 7, President Evo Morales issued a government decree that allows workers to establish “social enterprises” in businesses that are bankrupt, winding up, or unjustifiably closed or abandoned. These enterprises, while private, will be operated by the workers and qualify for government assistance.

Morales issued Supreme Decree 1754 at a ceremony in the presidential palace marking the 62nd anniversary of the founding of the Confederación General de Trabajadores Fabriles de Bolivia (CGTFB – the General Confederation of Industrial Workers of Bolivia). The Minister of Labour, Daniel Santalla, said the decree was issued pursuant to article 54 of Bolivia’s new Constitution, which states that workers

“in defense of their workplaces and protection of the social interest may, in accordance with the law, reactivate and reorganize firms that are undergoing bankrupty, creditor proceedings or liquidation, or closed or abandoned without justification, and may form communitarian or social enterprises. The state will contribute to the action of the workers.”

In his remarks to the audience of several hundred union members and leaders, President Morales noted that employers often attempt to blackmail workers with threats to shut down when faced with demands for higher wages. “Now, if they threaten you in that way, the firm may as well go bankrupt or close, because you will become the owners. They will be new social enterprises,” he said.

Labour Minister Santalla noted that the constitutional article had already been used to establish some firms, such as Enatex, Instrabol, and Traboltex, and that more such firms could now be set up under the new decree.

Business spokesmen predictably warned that the new provisions would be a disincentive to private investment and risk the viability of companies.

Santalla also said that firms that do not comply with their workforce obligations under the law will lose preferential mechanisms to export their products to state-managed markets. And he cited some recent cases in which the government had intervened in defense of workers victimized for their attempts to form unions. In one such case last month, Burger King, the company was fined 30,000 Bolivianos ($4,300 US), ordered to reinstate the fired workers and to recognize the union.

In the following article Alfredo Rada, Bolivia’s Deputy Minister of Coordination with the Social Movements, draws attention to some important developments within the country’s labour movement and suggests some means by which the unions can be more effectively incorporated within the “process of change” being championed by the government of the MAS-IPSP, the Movement for Socialism – Political Instrument for the Sovereignty of the Peoples. My translation from the Spanish.

-- Richard Fidler

* * *

The working class and the political process in Bolivia

By Alfredo Rada, Rebelión, October 8, 2013

Five months ago, I was in Tarija participating in a forum debating the political process in Bolivia, a process we call the Democratic and Cultural Revolution. One of those attending asked me whether it was possible to deepen this revolution, to make it an economic and social revolution, without the participation of the working class. My immediate response was no, that to consolidate a period of transition to the construction of a new form of communitarian socialism it was absolutely necessary that the workers participate within the revolutionary social bloc that has managed this process of transformations starting in 2000 in the so-called water war, when the overthrow of neoliberalism began.

It was a very relevant question since at that moment, in May of 2013, the mobilizations over the Pensions Act called by the leadership of the Central Obrera Boliviana (COB – Bolivian Workers Central) in opposition to the government of Evo Morales were at their height.[1] Strongly influenced by ultraleft political tendencies organized around the self-described “Partido de los Trabajadores” [PT -- Workers Party], the COB committed a monumental error in mobilizing their ranks with fevered speeches calling for replacing Evo with “another government,” as a leader of the urban teachers in Santa Cruz put it.

This maximalist orientation led the COB inexorably to defeat, since the strike and the mobilizations never met with popular support and in the end the union leadership had to retreat in virtual disarray. The diversion that led to the defeat originated in the characterization that the ultraleft makes of the present government as “bourgeois and pro-imperialist,” a simplistic deceit peculiar to the political currents of an excessively classist and workerist ideological mould that blocks them from understanding the varied nature of the Bolivian social formation, which can only be analyzed in terms that combine nation and class.

The present process of change is made up of a dynamic deployment of social class struggles within capitalism that are combined, sometimes in a contradictory way, with the historic struggle of the indigenous nations against the internal capitalism. That is the dialectical nature of this process, in which the anticapitalist and anticolonialist structural tendencies expressed in the political action of exploited classes and oppressed nations make possible the revolutionary transformation of the economic relations of exploitation, the political relations of exclusion and the cultural relations of oppression. Yet there is always the risk that this course of transformations, as a result of external pressures, internal fragmentation or programmatic concessions, will become exhausted or reversed.

Turning to the conflict with the COB, following its dénouement the government set itself the task of rapidly mending its relationship with the working-class sectors while at the same time the rank and file workers began to settle scores with the ultraleft leaderships within the unions. That is what has just occurred in the Sindicato Mixto de Trabajadores Mineros de Huanuni [Combined Union of the Mining Workers in Huanuni], an emblematic organization because that district, located in the western department of Oruro, has the largest proletarian concentration in the entire country. Its 4,500 miners more than a year ago had elected a union leadership radically opposed to the government. This leadership led in the May strike, the blockade of roads in Caihuasi and the blowing up of a bridge located in that locality. Today, weakened and isolated, that ultraleft that was perched for some time in the Huanuni union has ended up being removed by a mass general meeting of the workers, who also decided to approve the construction of a new political pacto de unidad [unity agreement] with the government of Evo Morales.

No doubt such repositioning within the workers movement will have a major impact on the future of the PT since that political instrument has now lost its backbone; the effects will also be felt in the orientation of the Federación Sindical de Trabajadores Mineros de Bolivia [Federation of Mining Workers of Bolivia] and in the COB itself.

Let’s look at another industrial sector, that of the construction workers. This is one of the fastest growing sources of employment owing to the expansion in public and private investment in new building construction. Everywhere in Bolivia’s cities you can see building and housing complexes under way, and with them the hiring of many workers as casual or piecework labour. But the unions in this sector are weak and dispersed, partly because their leadership tends to be controlled by the big construction companies but also because of the sparse regulation exercised by the state.

This submissiveness of the unions began to change at the most recent national congress of the Confederación Sindical de Trabajadores en Construcción de Bolivia [Bolivian Construction Workers Union Confederation], which met in the city of Santa Cruz. The construction workers elected a new union leadership and set their sights on the mandatory organizing of all the building workers, teachers and assistants, replacing oral agreements with the bosses with collective labour contracts in all construction projects. This will also be a means of overcoming the situation of “informal workers” that is one of the worst legacies of neoliberalism in a country in which less than 20% of the workers are unionized.

Manufacturing workers have been one of the hardest-hit sectors, decimated by the massive layoffs euphemistically labelled “relocations” by Supreme Decree 21060 of August 1985. The manufacturing sector was subsequently subjected for almost two decades to the labour flexibility policies of neoliberalism in order to reduce payloads and increase the profits of capital.

Today the manufacturing sector is undergoing a rapid reorganizing of the unions that has helped to strengthen the Confederación General de Trabajadores Fabriles de Bolivia [General Confederation of Manufacturing Workers of Bolivia]. Yet to be consolidated is the organization of new unions, particularly in the cities of El Alto and Santa Cruz, the two major concentrations of industrial factories in Bolivia.

The importance given to reincorporating workers in the process of transformations around a common programmatic agenda with the Morales government lies not only in the fact that it will help to bring together a strong labour base of support, but also that it will strengthen the anti-imperialist and revolutionary tendencies in the process. The programmatic agenda to which we refer could address the following aspects: (1) a new General Labour Law which, while preserving the advances already in the present law, will grant new rights to the workers; (2) a natonal campaign of massive union organization in all industries that are unorganized; and (3) the strengthening of the social and communitarian sector of the economy, in alliance with the nationalized state sector.

Alfredo Rada is Bolivia’s Deputy Minister of Coordination with the Social Movements.


[1] The COB demanded an increase in state pensions to 8,000 bolivianos ($1140) annually for miners, and 5,000 bolivianos ($715) for other sectors. The government offered 4,000 and 3,200 bolivianos respectively ($600/$470), saying that any more would risk the financial sustainability of its pension scheme.

The conflict saw miners, teachers and health workers take to the streets of La Paz, while roadblocks and strikes took place across the country. Police were deployed to break up blockades in Cochabamba and La Paz, leading to several arrests and injuries, while workers at the state-run Huanuni mine joined the La Paz protests, paralysing tin production and costing several million dollars.

Other social sectors in Bolivia organised counter-marches in favour of the government. Representatives of the Confederación Sindical Única de Trabajadores Campesinos de Bolivia (CSUTCB), and the Confederación de Mujeres Campesinas y Originarias Bartolina Sisa marched in La Paz to reject the blockades and mobilisations organised by the COB, while coca workers also protested in favour of the government in Cochabamba. At a rally in La Paz, Morales strongly criticised the COB leaders, accusing them of being at the service of imperialism, capitalism and neoliberalism.

After 16 days of protest, COB leaders agreed to lift the strike for 30 days to allow time to analyse a government offer to reform the current pensions system. Union leaders negotiated for several days in La Paz with officials from the labour and finance ministries, during which the union lowered its demand on pensions to 4,900 bolivianos for miners and 3,700 bolivianos ($700 and $530 respectively) for other sectors. It remains to be seen whether permanent settlement can be reached. (Source: “Strikes and blockades organised by trade unions in pension protest,” Bolivia Information Forum, News Briefing May-June 2013)

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Bolivia’s cogent responses to recent provocations from the Empire

LA PAZ — Washington’s refusal to allow Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro to over-fly its colony of Puerto Rico, September 19, attracted little attention in the North American and European media.

But in Latin America this arrogant gesture drew immediate outrage. It recalled the July 2 denial by four European countries — France, Italy, Spain and Portugal — of landing and refueling rights and passage through their airspace to Bolivia’s president Evo Morales while he was returning home from a trip to Moscow. This unprecedented attack on Bolivia’s sovereignty, clearly at Washington’s behest, had been defended on the fallacious grounds that Morales’ plane harboured US espionage whistle-blower Edward Snowden.

Evo Morales was quick to take the lead in the Latin American response to this latest incident involving Venezuela’s Maduro. Initially, he called on the presidents of countries in ALBA and UNASUR[1] to boycott the current session of the United Nations General Assembly to protest the US “aggression.” However, discussions with his counterparts resulted in an agreement instead to attend in force the UN meetings in order to raise their objections. (Maduro deferred on the grounds of an alleged plot to kill him if he went to New York, the UN headquarters.)

Morales also proposed to the other Latin American presidents that they consider collectively expelling US ambassadors from their countries, as Bolivia did a few years ago to protest Washington’s interference in its internal affairs. And he proposed that they discuss the possibility of launching international legal proceedings against Barack Obama for his repeated violations of international law and diplomacy.

In his UN address on September 25, Morales called for establishment of a people’s tribunal, with support from international human rights organizations, to try Obama for offences of “lèse-humanité.” As examples of Obama’s crimes against humanity he cited the aerial bombing of Libya, events in Iraq and the US world-wide interventionism aimed at seizing possession of “our natural resources.”

Since the death of Hugo Chávez earlier this year, Morales has emerged as the Latin American leader most engaged in exposing the crimes of the US and other imperialist powers and projecting an alternative anti-capitalist approach on a continental and global scale.

He was quick to turn the act of air piracy on July 2 into a mobilizer of official and popular anti-imperialist action. Following an emergency summit in early July of a number of Latin American presidents to protest this incident, the Bolivian government, along with Bolivian social organizations grouped in the Pacto de Unidad, proceeded to organize a people’s international summit in opposition to imperialism and colonialism.

Held in Cochabamba July 31-August 2, the summit was attended by some 1,200 persons representing 90 organizations in Latin America and Europe. During the three days, a formal declaration drafted by the Bolivians was debated, amended and supplemented by six mesas or workshops. Originally, five mesa topics were planned: on Political Sovereignty, Economic Sovereignty, Decolonization and Anti-Imperialism, International Human Rights Treaties and Espionage. At the initiative of some delegations, including Venezuela’s, a sixth was added: Communications Counter-offensive.

On the final day, August 2 — exactly one month after the July 2 incident — participants joined in a massive closing rally and march through Cochabamba that was addressed by Evo Morales. Estimates of the number of those demonstrating ranged up to a million.

evo-cierre-cochabamba

“We have to form an alliance,” Morales told the rally, “we have to unite our anti-imperialist social movements, political parties and governments of Latin America and the Caribbean with those in Europe to liberate ourselves from North American imperialism. This August 2, for me, is the day of Anti-Imperialism….” He called for building “a world movement for sovereignty and for the liberation of the peoples.”

The final declaration, as amended by the mesas, was read out at the rally. In addition, many websites published as well the full text of the resolutions adopted by the mesas. To my knowledge there is no English translation of the full text of the declaration or the resolutions. Below I have translated large excerpts of the declaration, along with a summary of some sections while noting the addition of some further demands adopted by the relevant mesas. Taken together, these statements provide an insight into the major themes and perspectives of the left today in Latin America in particular.

­­­-- Richard Fidler

AGAINST IMPERIALISM AND COLONIZATION: SIX STRATEGIES FOR SOVEREIGNTY, DIGNITY AND THE LIFE OF THE PEOPLES

An Anti-Imperialist and Anticolonialist Summit of the Peoples of Latin America and the world has been held in Bolivia at a time of imperial counter-offensive aimed at silencing the voice of rebelliousness of the people struggling for another possible world in which we will have achieved the emancipation of human beings and Mother Earth.

Therefore, assembled in Cochabamba from July 31 to August 2, 2013, we declare as follows:

The current crisis of capitalism is a crisis of multiple dimensions: a crisis of finance, production, the climate, food, energy, politics and ideology. In short, a crisis of civilization that threatens the life of capitalism as such, but also of humanity and the planet . However, faced with this crisis, and in desperate attempts to revive and strengthen this system, pro-capitalist and pro-imperialist governments are promoting further privatizations, the pillage of Mother Earth, the destruction of social rights, and the plunder of natural resources.

Amidst this crisis, the wars and coups promoted by the Empire are aimed at installing puppet governments and capturing strategic natural resources. Invasions of countries and sabotage of processes of change are the Empire’s responses to the crisis of the capitalist system.

The imperial counter-offensive began with the NATO intervention in the dismemberment of many of the countries of the socialist camp and the former Yugoslavia, where it launched a territorial fragmentation strategy that imperialism has since been trying to use in Bolivia, Venezuela and Ecuador.

The invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq were another aspect of this historical period as the Empire sought to seize their natural resources and deploy a range of geopolitical strategies aimed at maintaining the pattern of North-South relations and preventing reinforcement of South-South relations.

Likewise, starting after 2008 with the administration of Barack Obama, imperialism has taken the path of a major military offensive aimed at overcoming the crisis of capitalism. Libya became the first victim and now the focus is on Syria and Iran with the complicity of the United Nations, whose Security Council has been virtually kidnapped by the United States, England and France.

The transnational military arm of the United States is called NATO. Its new strategic concept has made the planet a global theatre for its operations. Latin America now finds itself threatened by Colombia’s request to become a co-operative partner of NATO.

Another manifestation of the global counter-offensive of imperialism is the violation of the international conventions and treaties that emerged after World War II. Since the invasion of Iraq, the U.S. and its European partners in NATO have made it more than clear that their geopolitical interests in commandeering the world’s natural resources prevail over the international order.

One of the latest violations of that international order is the kidnapping of President Evo Morales last July 2, when four European countries denied him the right to refuel and the use of airspace, putting his life in jeopardy. Clearly there is a before and after since July 2, 2013. Nor is it accidental that the only country that allowed the landing was Austria, which is not a member of NATO.

The world capitalist counteroffensive is expressed in Latin America with the opening of more military bases on our continent: the implementation of Plan Colombia, the Mérida Initiative,[2] the Andean Initiative[3] and the Caribbean Basin Initiative[4]; the failed and defeated coups against Chávez in Venezuela (2002), Morales in Bolivia (2008) and Rafael Correa in Ecuador (2010); the military coup against Manuel Zelaya in Honduras (2009), and the activation of the Fourth Fleet (to control the ocean through the possibility of rapid deployment).

Following the defeat of the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) at Mar del Plata in 2005, imperialism has rearmed politically and economically, promoting the Pacific Alliance as a bloc of pro-free trade countries that is intended to counter politically, economically and ideologically the integration processes in the region; it is aimed especially at reconfiguring the geopolitical balance of forces and acting as a counterweight to the growing influence of ALBA, which relies instead on strengthening UNASUR and CELAC. The Pacific Alliance represents an attempt to replicate the neocolonial model of the FTAA.

Imperialism and colonialism are using the media as the most appropriate instruments to disorient our peoples and to undermine social support for our progressive governments. They are also developing sophisticated technological networks as part of the intrusion and interference of U.S. imperialism in our countries.

To confront this very difficult context, the movements and peoples of the world gathered in Cochabamba have agreed to oppose imperialism and colonialism by implementing six strategies for sovereignty and the dignity and life of our peoples.

[From here on, I summarize the contents of this lengthy document. – RF]

STRATEGY 1

STRENGTHENING THE SOVEREIGNTY OF THE WORLD’S PEOPLES BY FIGHTING THE IMPERIAL AND MILITARISTIC INSTRUMENTS OF DOMINATION LIKE NATO

The introduction to this section recounts the formation of NATO in 1949 as the primary imperialist alliance during the Cold War, and its use since the fall of the Soviet Union as an instrument to uphold the worldwide geopolitical and economic interests of the US and other imperialist powers and to keep the world safe for capitalism.

The document calls on the peoples and countries of the South to mobilize in opposition to NATO and related imperialist alliances and to oppose invasions of sovereign countries and the plunder of natural resources. “Without nationalization of natural resources there is no sovereignty,” it says. And it calls for the creation of an “Observatory of the Neo-coupism and Military Interventionism of the United States and its Armed Wing, NATO.”

Among the efforts it recommends to free the peoples of the world from colonialism it calls for sustained campaigning against the US blockade of Cuba and its revolution, “a revolution of all the world’s peoples,” and for the return of the Malvinas (a.k.a. the Falkland Islands) to Argentina. And it calls for international mobilization to modify the composition of the UN Security Council and to “democratize” it by increasing the representation of the “developing countries” on the Council.

The workshop on this topic adopted a number of proposals that were not included in the final text. Among these:

· Establish July 2 as an International Day Against Imperialism, to represent emancipation of peoples and especially of the Plurinational State of Bolivia, in rejection of the attack on President Evo Morales;

· Hold the second Anti-imperialist, Anticapitalist and Anticolonialist Summit for the Sovereignty of the Peoples and Security of Human Rights in Venezuela on March 5, 2014, in homage to the memory of Hugo Chávez; and

· Participate in the World Youth and Student Festival in Quito, Ecuador, December 7-13, 2013.

STRATEGY 2

ALLIANCE AND MOBILIZATION OF THE PEOPLES TO PREVENT THE RESTORATION OF NEOLIBERALISM AND THE FTAA

This section singles out the Pacific Alliance as an instrument for the restoration of privatization of services and natural resource development based on so-called free trade and investment agreements, an attempt to recreate the frustrated Free Trade Area of the Americas and to counter the efforts toward unification and political unity in Latin America through such alliances as ALBA, MERCOSUR, UNASUR and CELAC.

Among the specific actions it proposes are “the promotion and recognition of development models defined in sovereignty by the peoples of the world based on solidarity, complementarity, vivir bien, and harmony with Mother Earth….” It calls for “alternative economic projects that recognize, respect and strengthen the communitarian, indigenous and ancestral structures of our peoples, and that promote socialism, the economy of vivir bien distinct from capitalism.”

The capitalist model, it says, should be countered by building along socialist lines, “based on socially-owned enterprises and recognition of the plural, state and communitarian social economy.” This entails “state support for a productive sector based on associated small and micro enterprises, communitarian social associations, and a solidaristic and cooperative social economy” – all of which, it says, are major job creators – along with “state enterprises committed to the sovereignty and dignity of the peoples and the democratization of wealth.”

To fight “consumerism and commercialization [mercantilismo],” it is fundamental to “consume our own products, our own safe and healthy foods.”

Technological sovereignty, the statement says, involves developing knowledge and innovation in a framework of a dialogue between ancient communal indigenous and peasant knowledges and modern learning and technologies.

It urges support for the people of Bolivia in that landlocked country’s fight to regain the access to the Pacific that it lost to Chile in the War of the Pacific in the 1870s. This can best be achieved, it says, through creation of a Trinational Coordinating Committee of the Peoples between Bolivia, Peru and Chile that can secure this demand in a context of justice and solidarity.

Finally, the statement calls for building “an instrument of political action of the social movements to discuss actions in defence of those governments advancing progressive options for Latin America, and in support of the struggles of other progressive revolutionary processes.”

The workshop on this topic adopted a number of proposals not included in the final declaration. Among these:

· To solve the problem of the land and to recognize the right of the indigenous peasants to administer their own lands, the development of comprehensive agrarian reform processes is key to guaranteeing food sovereignty. Sale of land must be prohibited, and the economic function of the land must be recognized.

· Monetary sovereignty. Colonization also proceeds through monetary policy, hence the imposition of the dollar. Rescue the Sucre as our regional currency and move toward monetary integration, making the Sucre currency of common use.

· Strengthen the Bank of the South (Banco del Sur) so that it can finance undertakings to achieve food sovereignty, freeing us from transgenic seeds and preventing Monsanto from invading our territories.

· Create an ALBA parliament.

· Create a continental coordination of the peoples between Peru, Chile and Bolivia to help achieve Bolivian access to the sea.

STRATEGY 3

DECOLONIZATION AND ANTI-IMPERIALISM

“It is not possible to speak of national liberation and to recover economic and political sovereignty,” states the preamble to this section, “without posing the need to build an alternative vision to unfettered, extractivist and plundering capitalism.” This involves “strengthening our diversity and interculturalism to achieve a sovereignty of thinking and consciousness, recovering the ancestral knowledges of our peoples.”

Among the specific steps proposed in order to promote decolonization and anti-imperialism are:

· the greater involvement of anticapitalist and anti-imperialist social movements within formal and informal international alliances and councils;

· the establishment of Constituent Assemblies in all Latin American countries as well as on other continents in order to found Plurinational States, the models here obviously being Bolivia and Ecuador;

· creating social movement media on a Latin American scale, with headquarters in Bolivia, to report on the various experiences in their struggles;

· holding annual International Anti-imperialist and Anticolonial Summits, preferably on July 28 to commemorate the birth date of Hugo Chávez; and

· the creation of a University of the Peoples of ALBA to “decolonize educational, institutional and mental structures and develop our own Latin American projects and programs capable of developing the region with its sovereignty, dignity, equity and identity.”

This section also calls for demanding that imperialism pay its ecological debt; supporting the peace process in Colombia, and supporting Puerto Rico’s independence. The workshop (mesa) on this topic added a call for the withdrawal of Minustah[5] from Haiti.

STRATEGY 4

STRENGTHENING HUMAN RIGHTS AND THE RIGHTS OF MOTHER EARTH FROM THE STANDPOINT OF THE PEOPLES

“Human rights from imperialism’s perspective,” says the preamble to this section, “are a means of consolidating a model of society that is individualistic, privatized, hierarchical and in which the market has control and domination over our peoples.” This is the outlook that has been incubated in the OAS’s Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) and in other international bodies. “But the international actions taken recently against Evo Morales are not only an infringement of international law by the states involved, they also demonstrate the decadence of the European societies.”

The new vision of human rights must reflect the thinking of the social movements, and states must be accountable to those movements for their exercise of these rights. Human rights must be based on anti-imperialist criteria and respect our cultures and our indigenous and Afro-descendant identities. The new vision of human rights has to be based on three pillars: universal recognition of the rights of Mother Earth; effective recognition of the individual and collective rights of the peoples; and full enforcement of economic, social, cultural and environmental rights.

In terms of specific actions, the statement calls for discussion of a Universal Declaration on the Rights of Mother Earth, recovering the cosmovision of our aboriginal rights as the basis of the civilizing horizon of Vivir Bien; creation of an intercontinental organ of social movements parallel to the United Nations; promotion and strengthening of basic services as a human right; and “highlighting the importance of the human rights of women and the need to struggle to eradicate femicide in our region.”

And it calls for the immediate and unconditional end to the inhuman economic, commercial and financial blockade of Cuba and for its exclusion from the list of state sponsors of international terrorism; the freeing of the four Cuban heroes unjustly imprisoned in the United States; and the definitive closure of the centres of violation of human rights installed in Latin America by the United States, such as the Guantánamo prison.

The workshop on this topic added a call for independence of Puerto Rico.

STRATEGY 5

FIGHT AGAINST EXPIONAGE AND INTERFERENCE, TO FREE THE PEOPLES FROM THE DOMINATION OF IMPERIALIST TERROR

The introduction to this section analogizes the US counteroffensive in Latin America to “low-intensity warfare.” In addition to the “international espionage” of the CIA, well-documented in many countries, the recent revelations of Edward Snowden have shed light on the extensive global network of digital spying “in violation of the privacy and sovereignty of the progressive countries.”

To combat this imperialist espionage, the declaration recommends the following actions, among others, to strengthen popular and state sovereignty:

· the prompt creation of an ALBA communications infrastructure to serve as an alternative and independent internet network, linking the Latin American and Caribbean countries through fibre optics technology;

· the construction of a Latin American civilian and military intelligence and counter-intelligence centre, as part of the ALBA Defence Doctrine, that can “train revolutionaries to confront the imperialist espionage”; and

· the achievement of computer sovereignty by nationalizing and developing state-controlled national telecommunications firms and developing continental computer technology networks using their own free software.

The workshop on this topic also call for monitoring foreign NGOs in countries of the South, to ensure that they do not service imperialism in their activities.

STRATEGY 6

TO COUNTER THE COLONIALISM OF DISINFORMATION, PEOPLE’S CONTROL OVER THE COMMUNICATIONS MEDIA

Most of the private media in Latin America, notes the preamble, are hostile to the anti-imperialist, anticolonialist and anticapitalist positions of the progressive governments. They work constantly to create social unrest. Examples cited are the “media coup d’état perpetrated in Venezuela against Hugo Chávez in 2002, the systematic media campaign in Bolivia in opposition to the process of change led by Evo Morales…, and the political and media opposition in Ecuador to Rafael Correa,” who has initiated legislation to undermine the private media dictatorship in that country.

There is a great need, the declaration says, to promote a system of independent communications spaces through the establishment of alternative community media, using networks of popular communications. Among the steps that can be taken, it adds, are:

· extending the TeleSUR and Radio del Sur broadcasting networks throughout Latin America and the Caribbean;

· establishing and strengthening popular communications networks (radio, television, social media networks) in collaboration with the social movements and the communications media that already exist; and

· establishing access to a state and community media satellite network that “integrates radio and television stations of the various social movements in our countries, broadcasts content related to the liberation struggles of our peoples, and promotes the design of communications content in native languages.”

The workshop on this topic proposed in addition that strategic proposals along these lines be taken to the Second World Summit on Indigenous Communications, to be held October 13-17 in Oaxaca, Mexico.

STRENGTHENING THE EMANCIPATORY POTENTIAL OF THE PEOPLES

This final section notes “the legacy of the Cuban revolution,” which “opened the way” to all of today’s “people’s governments and defenders of the social majorities.” And it recognizes “the legacy of Chavismo, which allowed the development of a political project of Latin American integration with socialism as its horizon,” adding that this is a communitarian socialism born from our own peoples – indigenous and workers – whose long memory and wisdom reaffirms for us not only the need but the real possibility to construct a social order outside of the logics of capital.”

“Latin America is experiencing one of the most extraordinary cycles in its entire history,” the declaration says.

“The peoples of Abya Yala,[6] in terms of both their position as a class and their position as originary campesino indigenous peoples, have risen up and are moving toward their final and full independence. This possibility of achieving emancipation, more than 500 years after the European invasion and 200 years after achieving state independence, has never before been presented with the force that it now has in the present conditions: a rise in the degree of organization and consciousness of the peoples, revolutionary and progressive governments, leaders with a great historical dimension, and the emergence of initiatives of Latin American unity and integration.”

But added to the structural problems, which are simply the unpleasant residues of the old colonialism, are other challenges in confronting the problems of the new colonialism. One is the need to recover popular control over natural resources. Another is the need to further “relations of collaboration, cooperation, solidarity and complementarity between peoples and states.” And still another is to “develop technology to change our productive matrix without affecting Mother Earth.”

To strengthen the emancipatory potential of our peoples, the statement says, there must be a permanent solidarity among them, expressed in concrete actions aimed against all forms of oppression and domination; respect for the self-determination of the peoples, national and popular sovereignty, etc., to build a society that is more inclusive, more participatory, more democratic, more complementary and solidaristic – one that allows us to live in harmony with Mother Earth.


[1] ALBA, the Alianza Bolivariana para los Pueblos de Nuestra América; UNASUR, the Unión Suramericana de Naciones.

[2] The Mérida Initiative (also called Plan Mexico by critics) is a security cooperation agreement between the United States and the government of Mexico and the countries of Central America, with the declared aim of combating the threats of drug trafficking, transnational organized crime and money laundering. The assistance includes training, equipment and intelligence. (Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/M%C3%A9rida_Initiative)

[3] The Andean Counterdrug Initiative (ACI) is a program operated within the US State Department that is responsible for supporting anti-drug initiatives in Colombia and other South American countries. ACI grew out of a controversial legislation, Plan Colombia, which supported various drug wars in South America. The program seeks to eradicate coca and induce local farmers to plant alternative crops. But for all the money that has been spent towards stemming the flow of illegal drugs into the United States from South America, little progress has been made in reaching this goal. (http://tinyurl.com/ks6qb6nhttp://tinyurl.com/ks6qb6n )

[4] The Caribbean Basin Initiative (CBI) was a unilateral and temporary United States program initiated by the 1983 “Caribbean Basin Economic Recovery Act” (CBERA). The CBI came into effect on January 1, 1984 and aimed to provide several tariff and trade benefits to many Central American and Caribbean countries. It arose in the context of a U.S. desire to respond with aid and trade to leftist movements that were active in some countries of the region, such as the guerrillas in El Salvador and the Sandinista government in Nicaragua. Provisions in the CBERA prevented the U.S. from extending preferences to CBI countries that it judged to be under the influence of Communists or that had expropriated American property. (Wikipedia, http://tinyurl.com/k6h58ez)

[5] The United Nations Stabilisation Mission In Haiti (MINUSTAH) is a United Nations “peacekeeping” mission (actually occupation force) in Haiti that has been in operation since 2004, following the overthrow by France, the US and Canada of the elected government headed by Jean-Bertrand Aristide. The mission's military component is led by the Brazilian Army and the force commander is Brazilian. The force is composed of 8,940 military personnel (including a small contingent from Bolivia) and 3,711 police.

[6] Abya Yala is the name used by many indigenous peoples to refer to the American continent since before the arrival of Columbus.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Chile: Allende’s foreign policy was a forerunner for today’s Latin America

Salvador Allende.

By Jorge Magasich, translated for Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal by Richard Fidler

September 10, 2013 – When Salvador Allende took office in November 1970, Chile was aligned with the United States. The foreign policy of his Popular Unity (UP – Unidad Popular) government, a coalition of almost all the left parties,[1] broke sharply from this Cold War bloc.

It was based on self-determination of peoples, non-interference in other countries, disarmament and the adoption of Third World causes such as the struggle against colonialism and the search for an international order with greater justice for “developing” countries. With Allende, Chile joined the Non-Aligned Movement, making it an exception in Latin America, while his government promoted alliances aimed at “advocating our rights and defending raw materials prices through collective action.”[2]

Ideological pluralism

Abandoning Chile’s strict adherence to ideological frontiers, Allende’s government displayed greater pluralism. It traded with all countries irrespective of their internal political regime. And the new government opened diplomatic relations with two Latin American countries, seven in Africa, three in Europe and seven in Asia.[3] It broke with none.

In August 1971, Washington announced an end to the convertibility of the US dollar to gold, increased import taxes by 10%, reduced its foreign aid by 10%, devalued the US dollar and launched major bond issues to finance the war in Vietnam, the space race and investments in Europe, Canada and Japan. These measures damaged many countries in the global South, devaluing their reserve funds held in dollars.

The Latin American countries met the following month in Buenos Aires to analyse the situation. Even the dictatorships participated in this meeting of the Special Committee for Latin American Co-ordination (CECLA).[4] In Buenos Aires, Gonzalo Martner, Chile’s minister of planning, outlined his proposals for a new international monetary system. A first step was to protect national currencies against dollar devaluations by breaking their link to the international monetary system. Second, he proposed that a way be found to engage the developing countries in the major decisions in international monetary policy. Finally, he called for an international conference with representation of all the economic interests on the planet. This conference would undertake to reform the monetary system, and be provided with greater resources for the developing countries that they could use at their discretion.

A new role for the UNCTAD

In his opening speech at the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) in Santiago, Chile, in April 1972, Allende — presciently! — warned the 3000 delegates and observers from 131 countries against the policy of the United States, Japan and the European Economic Community (forerunner of today’s European Union) which would gradually dismantle the obstacles to free trade. Free trade, he said, would “at one stroke wipe out the advantages that the system of generalised preferences[5] contributes to the developing countries”.

But the main threat for the Third World, Allende went on to say, lay in the fact “that the three major economic powers claim they are establishing this policy not through the UNCTAD but through the GATT [General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, forerunner of the World Trade Organization]”. However, the GATT was not subject to the principles of the United Nations, as its composition was not at all representative and the organisation had demonstrated a special concern with protecting the interests of the dominant countries.

Allende launched an appeal for the defence of the UNCTAD, the most representative forum of the international community since it provided for negotiation of economic and trade issues on an equal legal footing: the peoples of the Third World, “unable to speak at Bretton Woods” or in other founding conferences of the international financial system, needed an effective tool to defend their interests, he argued. He therefore proposed to transform the UNCTAD into a permanent institution that could become “the principal and most effective of the instruments that the Third World has to negotiate with the developed nations”.

From this perspective, the UNCTAD would back four major missions. First, to think about “a new monetary system studied, prepared and managed by the international community as a whole, which would look to funding development in the Third World countries as well as expanding international trade”. Second, in view of the fact that the external debt “constitutes one of the principal obstacles to progress”, Allende proposed that the UNCTAD undertake to “audit” it (he spoke of a “critical study of the way in which the Third World has contracted its external debt”).

The third mission would consist of developing media under the supervision of the UN to compensate for the concentration of information and advertising in the hands of consortiums that “simply increase our dependency and are now destroying our cultural values”. Finally, Allende suggested that the UNCTAD study a “disarmament plan that would assign a large percentage of the costs linked to arms production and war to a homogeneous human development fund that, among other things, would grant long-term loans to businesses and countries in the Third World”.

A few months later, addressing the General Assembly of the United Nations in December 1972, Allende warned against the increasing power of the multinational corporations that evade democratic control: “We are faced with a veritable frontal conflict between multinational corporations and states. Their fundamental decisions — political, economic and military — are influenced by global organisations not dependent on any state and with none of their activities accountable to any parliament.”

Latin American integration

Between 1970 and 1973 the Latin American political landscape was rather adverse to the UP government. Brazil, Argentina and Bolivia (after August 1971) were under the yoke of military dictatorships, soon to be joined by Uruguay. Colombia was governed by a conservative, Misael Pastrana, and Venezuela by a social Christian, Rafael Caldera. Only the “reformist” Peruvian military officers looked with sympathy on the Chilean socialist experiment, as did the president of Mexico, Luis Echeverría.

Allende’s Chile engaged in careful diplomacy. It managed to submit the delicate border disputes with Argentina to British arbitration. And prior to the 1971 coup in Bolivia, it negotiated reestablishment of diplomatic relations with La Paz, taking a favourable approach to Bolivia’s demand for access to the Pacific.[6] At the same time, Chile granted asylum to thousands of political exiles from the countries of the Latin American dictatorships.

Allende’s government rejected Pan-Americanism — a bloc of the whole of America, with the United States pre-eminent — and its political arm, the Organization of American States (OAS), headquartered in Washington. A community of interests between weak economies and the major power is impossible, said Allende, and he proposed that the OAS become a place of dialogue between the United States and Latin America.

The UP’s diplomacy advocated the formation of a “Latin American system” that would “integrate and complement our economies in the framework of the Latin American free-trade association and the common market of the Andean countries”.[7] It encouraged the development of the common market between the countries of the “Andean Pact”[8] [now the Andean Community] and strongly supported its “Decision 24” which regulated foreign investments, limited competition between its member countries, and established a 14% ceiling on repatriation of capital by foreign firms.

These ideas were spelled out in the Latin American Economic and Social Council, meeting in Panama in September 1971. Gonzalo Martner made four proposals of an integrationist nature: (1) to ask the United States for a moratorium on the external debt for a decade, in order to assign these sums to development policies; (2) create a Latin American central bank to “invest Latin America’s reserves, 70% of which are in the United States,” to receive “the region’s deposits and assets” and coordinate the operations of the central banks in order to protect the region from financial turbulence; (3) promote the creation of a world technologies fund for development that would be financed from mandatory contributions in licences, industrial procedures and other funds slated for research so as to limit the abuses associated with technological property; and (4) and create a Latin American organisation for the development of science and technology appropriate to the region.

Six weeks before the coup of September 11, 1973, the minister of foreign affairs Orlando Letelier[9] noted that the use of the US dollar was an important obstacle to trade among the countries of the Andean Pact. He proposed to avoid it by looking for other instruments of exchange: “It may be necessary to design a special independent means of payment.”[10]

Although almost none of these ideas, articulated 40 years ago, could actually be implemented, they continue to be of striking actuality. The re-establishment of relations between Chile and Bolivia still entails consideration of Bolivia’s request for access to the sea. Most of the Latin American governments have rejected a new version of pan-Americanism, presented by Washington in the form of a free-trade area from Alaska to Tierra del Fuego,[11] opting instead for their own organisation that excludes the United States: the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC). And the idea of a regional financial system funded with the reserves of the central banks is gradually gaining ground,[12] as is the thinking about the political weight of the media,[13] the economic weight of the dollar or the legitimacy of the external debt burden.[14]

[A French version of this article appeared in the September 2013 issue of Le Monde diplomatique. Jorge Magasich is a historian, lecturer at L’Institut des hautes études des communications in Brussels and author of Los que dijeron No: Historia del movimiento de los marinos antigolpistas de 1973 (Santiago, Chile: LOM, 2008).]

Notes

[1] Communists, Socialists (at the time, more left than the Communist Party), Radicals (secularists), MAPU (Left Christians who had become Marxists) and IC (Christian Left). The Movimiento de Izquierda Revolucionaria (MIR – Movement of the Revolutionary Left), inspired by the Cuban revolution, gave critical support from outside the coalition.

[2] Allende’s speech at the opening sessions of UNCTAD III, Santiago, April 1972.

[3] Latin America: Cuba and Guyana. Africa: Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Libya, Madagascar, Nigeria, Tanzania and Zaire. Europe: Albania, German Democratic Republic and Hungary. Asia: Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Cambodia, North Korea, China, Mongolia, South Vietnam (the provisional government) and North Vietnam.

[4] The CECLA was created in 1964 at the initiative of 19 Latin American countries meeting in Alta Gracia, Argentina, to prepare the first meeting of the UNCTAD, the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development. It denounced the discriminatory character of international trade and proposed the creation of an International Fund to finance food supplies under the UN system.

[5] Preferential customs duties for the developing countries established in 1968; certain products were allowed to enter the countries of the “North” with few or no customs duties, free of reciprocity requirements.

[6] Bolivia was deprived of its maritime province in 1883, when it was annexed by Chile after the “saltpeter war” [a.k.a. “War of the Pacific”]. Since then almost all Bolivian governments have asked for access to the sea. The two countries had no diplomatic relations because of this issue.

[7] Speech to the UN General Assembly, December 4, 1972.

[8] Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru had just signed the “Declaration of Cartagena” in 1969. Venezuela joined in 1973.

[9] Assassinated by the Chilean dictatorship’s secret police in September 1976 in Washington, where he was living in exile.

[10] Gonzalo Martner, El Gobierno del Presidente Salvador Allende, 1970-1973: Una evaluación (Ed. Prog. de Estudios del Des. Nac. and Ediciones literatura americana, 1988), at 193-198 and 214.

[11] Dorval Brunelle, “De l’Alaska à la Terre de feu, le tout-commence à l’oeuvre”, Le Monde diplomatique, April 2001.

[12] Damien Millet and Eric Toussaint, “Banque du Sud contre banque mondiale,” Le Monde diplomatique, June 2007.

[13] Renaud Lambert, “En Amérique latine, des gouvernements affrontent les patrons de presse,” Le Monde diplomatique, December 2012.

[14] Eric Toussaint and Damien Millet, “Payer la dette: l’Equateur dit ‘non’,” Le Monde diplomatique, July 2011.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

The MAS government in Bolivia: Are the social movements in power?

Introduction

This following article is of particular interest for its discussion of the relationship between the Bolivian government leadership, the indigenous and peasant organizations, and the party based on the latter that is led by President Evo Morales and his team.

Some foreign observers have argued that with its election in 2005 the Movement Toward Socialism (MAS) diverted from the streets to the ballot boxes the powerful struggles that it had helped to lead against repressive right-wing governments earlier in the decade. In this article Moira Zoazo, a leading Bolivian political scientist, shows that in fact the MAS and the social movements have combined both electoral and mass action throughout the period from the formation of the party in the mid-1990s to today, albeit in changing forms and combinations of tactics.

Among its useful insights, her essay documents and historically situates the development of major tensions between the government and the campesino and indigenous movements that make up the social base of the MAS. Many of these arise from the inevitable conflict between the natural impulse of the movements to defend their particularist corporate interests and the challenges faced by the Morales administration in governing a reconstituted “pluri-national” state that continues to confront the opposition of the old elites and their imperialist backers.

Zuazo’s conclusion, which is of course debatable, is that the role of Evo Morales is akin to that played in much of Latin American history by the caudillo, the chieftan who rules as a charismatic populist leader, balancing between contending social forces — he acts, as she puts it, as a “mediating axis” between the party and the social organizations at its base. By itself, this extension of the term to define Morales’ role may, in my view, obscure more than illuminate the complex interaction involved, the operation of which is nevertheless very usefully described in this article. (For a much earlier, pre-MAS analysis of the “caudillo” in Latin American history, see “Caudillo Politics: A Structural Analysis” by Eric Wolf and Edward Hansen.)

For an informative report on the formal state mechanisms for consultation of indigenous peoples and how they operate, both in law and in practice, see this report (in Spanish only) to the United Nations by the Bolivian government: http://www.un.org/esa/socdev/unpfii/documents/session_10_Bolivia.pdf.

My thanks to Federico Fuentes for critically reviewing my draft translation. Fuentes is the co-author with Marta Harnecker of the book MAS-IPSP de Bolivia: Instrumento político que surge de los movimientes sociales (Caracas: Centro Internacional Miranda, 2008).

– Richard Fidler

* * *

The MAS government in Bolivia: Are the social movements in power?

By Moira Zuazo

Nueva Sociedad No. 227, May-June 2010, http://nuso.org/revista.php?n=227

The Movimiento al Socialismo (MAS) grew out of a decision of the peasant social organizations to have a political instrument. Later, in its leap to the cities, the party’s reach expanded and Evo Morales emerged as the caudillo capable of guaranteeing internal cohesion and operating as a mediator between the MAS and the social organizations. With the accession to government in 2005, the concentration of power in the president’s hands was accentuated and the role of the social movements has faded. While they continue to occupy some space, their place in the leadership of the process is increasingly less relevant.

__________________

“What happens when the soviets retreat?” - Álvaro García Linera

In an interview published in Le Monde diplomatique, Bolivia’s vice-president, Álvaro García Linera, when asked about the relation between the social movements and the state, said that Bolivia now confronted the same challenges that Lenin’s Russia did and asked: “What happens when the soviets retreat?”[1]

That is the subject that will be addressed in this essay: What happens in Bolivia today, when the high point of the social empowerment, the establishment of “politics in the streets,” has now passed?[2] What happens when the crisis that extended from 2000 to 2005 is now part of history and we are living under a government that obtained 54% of the votes in 2005 and 64% in 2009? After the big mobilizations, are we now in a time of direct and unmediated participation of the social movements in the state? How does this participation function? And where has this left the rest of society, the “silent mass” that votes but does not mobilize? Or perhaps, in the wake of the mobilized masses has an institutionalization of participation been initiated by way of the democratic political party? Or are we faced with neither of these two options, and on the contrary it is raison d’état that is now imposed while power is being concentrated in the hands of the president and his entourage and both the social movements and the party are left, in varying degrees, outside?

To consider these questions, I will first analyze the relation of the social movements with the political party in the stage of crisis of the state, that is the period of social empowerment. In this section, I suggest that the MAS originated in campesino [peasant] social organizations on the basis of their decision to have a political instrument in order to operate in the democratic arena; that is, the MAS is, by its origin, a peasant party, and the second mass party produced in Bolivia’s republican history.

In the second part of the article, I focus on the period when the MAS becomes established in the cities, the relation of the urban population with the party and, fundamentally, with Evo Morales. What challenges does this leap portend and what are the implications for the new party? Here I argue that the horizontal-rural force that was the MAS, in the leap to the cities, saw the emergence of the caudillo that subsumes the party and reduces its role.

Lastly, in the third part of this article, I will analyze the process experienced by the social movements after 2006, once they had acceded to government. I analyze this stage on the basis of the tense relationship between three simultaneous and conflicting processes: the tendency to concentration of power in the hands of the president; the situation of a party trying to define its role as a party in government; and the presence of social organizations, which by 2010 were dispersed and negotiating their space in the government.

The birth of the MAS

The MAS originated as a product of a paradoxical movement: on the one hand, as part of the process of democratic opening in the period from 1982 to 2000; and on the other, as a consequence of the crisis of that process. The 18 years of democracy allowed the development of a process of political integration through the democratization of access to political space as a result of municipalization and the creation of single-member electoral constituencies. These opened a window for access to politics for the campesino and indigenous population. However, democracy, which in the 1980s was perceived as a promise of inclusion, became in the 1990s an unfulfilled promise. Political integration without economic and social integration proved inconclusive. By the end of the 1990s, the rural and urban popular society felt deceived and excluded.

During the years of stabilization of Bolivian democracy, between 1982 and 2000, the political class did not perceive the importance of the state’s role of social integration or the relevance that institutional strengthening would acquire in the fulfillment of that role.

There are two reasons for this. A crucial one was the role of the left forces, which developed a pragmatic form of action, opposed to the party-based institutionalization, that allowed them to camouflage themselves in the neoliberal consensus, a consensus that closed its eyes and its mouth to the social question. This came at the cost of losing the image of a party of the left and assuming the modest position of a force that turned around a caudillo, as in the case of the Movimiento de Izquierda Revolucionaria (MIR). But the left forces also were quick to be delegitimized by the dreadful experience of state management left by the Unidad Democrática y Popular (UDP), and they therefore continued to exist as marginal forces without any prospect of participating in state office, as was the case of the Partido Comunista de Bolivia (PCB) and the Movimiento Nacionalista Revolucionario de Izquierda (MNRI). The result of this debacle was that when the crisis stage began there were no left parties credibly defending the interests of the popular sectors.

Secondly, the centre and right forces gambled on being good students of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank (WB), promoting liberalization of the economy and dismantling of the state, and were uninterested in reflecting on the importance of the state’s role in social integration to the consolidation of democracy.

In this context, the emergence of the MAS is a result of the confluence of four factors: the politicized emergence of the cleavage between countryside and city; the crisis of the neoliberal economic model and the increasingly apparent social debt; the crisis of representativity of the political parties, in particular the absence of left parties with any institutional solidity; and the process of political integration that was generated by municipalization and single-member electoral constituencies.

The first factor, the cleavage between countryside and city, can be interpreted as a result of the post-colonial character of the Republic of Bolivia, which created a basic distrust in the relationship between the indigenous/originary peoples and the state as embodied in its institutions. But it is also the result of the feeble state appropriation of the rural territory, which shapes a dual relationship of the campesino-indigenous with the state: an abstract feeling of “Bolivianness” as opposed to the concrete experience of isolation as a campesino.

The second factor, the economic crisis of the late 1990s and the political stagnation of the government of Hugo Banzer, provided material content to the perception of democracy as an unfulfilled promise. Added to this is the third factor noted, the crisis of representativity of the parties, which generated a vacuum that opened space for the process of circulation of elites that Bolivia has been experiencing since 2005.

Lastly, the process of municipalization begun in 1994 with the Law of Popular Participation, opened a stage of political integration that was reinforced and expanded territorially with the definition of single-member electoral constituencies.

This political decentralization of the state allowed for a politicization of the countryside-city cleavage and determined the ruralization of politics on the basis of the state’s arrival in the local sphere, where in the past it had had no presence, and the articulation between the municipal and the forms of anti-institutional protest, rooted in the alienation — or at least distance — between the state and the communitarian-campesino.[3]

In this confluence of factors, the MAS presents three moments that function as constitutive axes. The first is the development of the campesino movement, which is built around the idea of unity: “The parties divide us” is the recurring complaint of the campesinos. In the panorama of crisis of democracy that opened earlier in the 1990s, the campesino movement perceived the need to build a “political instrument” based on a positive appreciation of unity as a weapon for effective defense of those below in the conception of a society of unequal persons. This positive appreciation of unity was to pose, in the future, difficulties in accepting pluralism based on respect for the individual and his or her right to dissent, both in the communities and within the party.

The second constitutive axis of the MAS dates back to 1995, that is, after the municipalization and implementation of single-member election constituencies. During this stage, the role of elections was of central importance for the consolidation of unity under cocalero [coca farmers] leadership. The electoral experiences led to a favourable assessment of democracy, and suffrage came to be seen as an effective mechanism for electing and empowering governments. The cocalero movement, which scored some major electoral triumphs and took power in the municipalities of the Chapare district, appealed to the other campesinos and took the leadership of the new party.

Lastly, the MAS was formed and developed in the cycle of social protest that opened up after 2000 on the basis of a strategy of weaving together a network of organizations and taking the leadership or control of them.

With the accession of the MAS to government, Bolivian society underwent a process of circulation of elites that is here to stay and has involved a structural change. This process was unleashed by the serious crisis of representativity of the old party system, combined with the politicization of the cleavage between countryside and city. Both factors led to a displacement of the old criteria for legitimate access to power. The cleavage between countryside and city reorganizes the values needed for holding political office, in three respects. In the first place, for the first time in the history of the Republic indigenous ethnic affiliation or ascendency, as expressed in family names and ethnic roots, is regarded as an asset. Secondly, educational level and professional merit are no longer criteria for access to political office, and even become obstacles. Thirdly, the “organizing capital” of Bolivian society, expressed in the presence of strong social organizations, is regarded as an asset. This assessment restores a tradition that is both urban and rural.

The positive reassessment of the corporate organizations is a process of reconciliation of Bolivian society with itself. The discursive objective of the MAS, to achieve the occupation of the state by organized society, is an expression of this. Firstly, we will address the question of whether this is possible; later, we will consider whether this is desirable.

The MAS in the cities: birth of the caudillo

In December 2005, the MAS won the national elections with 54% of the votes. Half a year later, in July 2006, the party prevailed in the Assembly elections, with 51%. Two years later, in August 2008, the government won the recall referendum with 67% of the votes.[4] In the general elections of December 2009, the MAS repeated its triumph, with 64%. These numbers demonstrate that what we are dealing with is a process of construction of hegemony expressed in a substantial electoral strength that contrasts with a serious institutional weakness of the party. This paradox is analyzed in the lines that follow.

Between 1995 and 2002, the MAS was a campesino party, with horizontal decision-making processes and spaces for debate, which emerged from the campesino-indigenous social organizations. Beginning in 2002, but more clearly after the 2005 election victory, a transition began from an indirect structure to an “urban party,” which generated tensions and changes.

The MAS originated as a party of indirect structure.[5] This means that affiliation to the party is by social organizations; individual members of the union are indirectly affiliated to the party.[6] This explains why Evo Morales has on various occasions stated that “where the union organizations function well, a parallel party structure is not necessary.”

Beginning in 2002, the party faced the challenge of appealing to the electorate in the urban centers. This gave rise to a dual challenge: on the one hand, the urban social organizations lacked the strength and organizational discipline of the rural organizations. On the other hand, and even more important, the MAS’s appeal to the urban electorate was met by citizens who wanted to affiliate individually to the party. This resulted in an initial tension between a party whose origin assumed an indirect structure but which, in the transition to the cities and in its interest in sinking roots in them, was beginning to be transformed into a party with a direct structure. However, as this matter was not debated internally it remained in fact as a vacuum in the party’s norms, which in turn opened up an area for circulation of power. And it was Evo Morales who occupied this space for circulation of power and became the mediating axis of the party.

But this normative vacuum also encouraged a relationship to the party based on expectations of access to public office (“a job”) and discouraged an approach based on the intention to be part of the party and contribute to political debate among the rank and file.

In this scenario, there arose a differentiation between, on the one hand, “organic members” or “early members,” that is, those from the social organizations with the right to challenge power internally, and, on the other hand, “guests,” a sort of second-level membership of those who have been incorporated in the process of penetration of the cities. The “guests” encounter many difficulties when it comes to disputing legitimacy within the party, but they are key elements in the governmental administration by the MAS. A significant portion of this new urban and middle class membership hold positions of responsibility in the state apparatus. However, without being organic members of the party, they are in a relationship of dependency on the President, both in developing their career within the party and in remaining a member of it.

This has meant that Evo Morales becomes the center for all mediation between the Executive Power, social movements, party and urban members and sympathizers (“guests”). At the same time, it has removed the party’s importance in the process of internal decision-making and has meant that the party is now unable to establish a space for political debate within the party concerning the direction of the process.

Through its origin in protest, struggle and confrontation, the MAS has an accumulated organizing capacity which, in extreme situations of polarization, has provided a high degree of cohesiveness to the ranks and a great capacity for mobilization in confrontations. This energy in protest and questioning of the State was to be renewed after becoming the government, under the coordination of the Executive, with the Pacto de Unidad, and later with the Coordinadora por el Cambio (Conalcam), and, ultimately, with the Mecanismo Nacional de Participación y Control Social, which we discuss in the following section.

In the time of resistance to the State, and of confrontation, the party’s cohesion was achieved by way of identification of the enemy and struggle against it. It was a time of participation; as Ernesto Laclau would put it, a time of the people. With the transition to the urban electorate we move to the time of the leader who acts as a mediator and, in that role, as a binding and cohesive factor in the party. The big dilemma and the big challenge of the MAS is to build a party life capable of generating proposals and cohesion that goes beyond the protest and confrontation of the years when the party was not in government. What the process of the last five years shows us is that the leader, together with a small milieu, has opted for a centralization of power in order to achieve cohesion, while the party is weakened and plays a relatively insignificant role.

When the MAS transitioned to the cities, the cleavage between city and countryide was translated in two ways to the urban centres: through the cultural and identitarian problematic, and through the problems of access to power experienced by the migrants. This context modernizes and politicizes what is urban and popular from a nationalist perspective with a campesino-indigenous face. That is how the recent migrants become the main point of entry for the party to the cities. This urban-rural symbiosis, which reflects and comes to represent the party, expresses one of the biggest challenges in contemporary Bolivia: to be able to expand democracy and convert it into an effective experience for the population as a whole. This also informs the initial promise of the MAS, the promise of integration of the city and the countryside.

The exercise of power: three moments in a complex relationship

Vice-President García Linera, asked how compatible presidential democracy was with participative and direct democracy, stated:

“A government of social movements like this one is going to experience a tension between concentration and socialization of decisions. How is the concept of a government of social movements validated? First, by the type of strategic decisions taken… Second, by the form of selection of the public officials, who go through the filter of the social organizations. Third, by the presence of cadres of the social movements in the state apparatus, who answer to those movements.”[7]

Analyzing the process of transition from the Pacto de Unidad to the Conalcam, and from the latter to the Mecanismo Nacional de Participación y Control Social, we observe the transition from a moment of relative autonomy of the campesino and indigenous social movement, in the Pacto de Unidad, to a re-edition of social empowerment, which is the moment of the Conalcam. In effect, now with Evo Morales in power, the Conalcam represents a form of exercise of violence from the State that goes beyond the monopoly exercise of legitimate violence subject to the rule of law of the Republican order. And finally, the passage to the third moment, the deployment of a strategy of channeling and state control of the participation of the organizations of the society, which is presented parallel to and in negation of the party, and which at least theoretically could be on top of the institutions of the state, but which at the same time is controlled by the government. This is the moment of the Mecanismo Nacional de Participación y Control Social.

We analyze below the three aforementioned moments.

The Pacto de Unidad and the Constituent Assembly. The Pacto de Unidad[8] is a coordinating body of the campesino and indigenous organizations of both the East and West of the country that was established to combine efforts, first, to win a Constituent Assembly, and later, when the Assembly had already begun, to express and promote the interests of the campesinos and indigenous in the conclave.

This was achieved through an internal debate and construction of proposals, and through street protest actions, which at some points pressured the Assembly and at other times protected it from the demands of other social movements. So the Pacto de Unidad was a space for corporate collective deliberation and mobilization of the campesino and indigenous sectors outside of the party.

In this initial stage, the relationship of the social movement with the MAS was one of relative autonomy. Although many of the social leaders were also senior leaders of the MAS, this autonomy in deliberation became evident in a relationship that at some points included challenges to the MAS representatives in the Assembly, as well as in the fact that there was an attempt to avoid an organic link with the party precisely in order to strengthen its capacity to influence the promotion of the corporate interests.

Once the Constituent Assembly had concluded and the new Constitution was approved, the Pacto de Unidad did not return to active or visible participation in Bolivian politics.

The CONALCAM and the defeat of the opposition. The CONALCAM was formed on January 22, 2007. Its creation was announced by Evo Morales, in a ceremony marking the first year of the MAS government, as a coordinating body “formed by unions, Executive and Legislative.”[9]

The creation of the CONALCAM was part of a dual strategy of the government. On the one hand, it aimed at confronting the opposition since it established the possibility of recreating the peak moments in the process of social ascent and empowerment in Bolivia (2000-2003), but this time under government leadership. On the other hand, it was also a strategy to put some content in the idea of a “government of social movements” since it established the form of action of the social organizations as part of the government.

Initially, in 2007, the CONALCAM was formed by the organizations that were part of the Pacto de Unidad, plus a few urban organizations.[10] Subsequently, in 2008, the CONALCAM was broadened to include various urban social organizations.[11] The transition from the Pacto de Unidad to the CONALCAM is the transition from the MAS’s coordination with the rural organizations to the government’s leadership in the direction of the rural and urban organizations with the challenge of leading the process of change from the streets. But the governmental leadership in the management of the CONALCAM is only one facet of the process; the other is the strengthening of its mobilizing capacity in the most serious moments of the conflict, which reflects to what degree the social organizations feel they are part of the government and see the MAS government as “their” government.

During 2008, the polarization and political conflict became more acute as a result of the confluence of two factors: the action of the civic-departmental government opposition[12] and the show of force in the streets, that is, over and above the legitimate monopoly of force relied upon by any state. The regional opposition radically resisted the process of change and opted to block the Constituent Assembly, thereby helping to unleash the events of “La Calancha.”[13] After the adoption of the constitutional text as a whole in Chuquisaca, without the presence of the opposition, and faced with the foreseeable result of the referendum to recall the President, Vice-President and governors,[14] the regional opposition violently seized institutions in the departments of the Media Luna — the “Half Moon” (Santa Cruz, Beni, Pando and Tarija). This signified the political suicide of the civic-regional opposition.

The show of force of the social organizations developed with a siege of the Congress,[15] the march on Santa Cruz and the threat of an encirclement of the city. At the time of the march in Santa Cruz, between September and October 2008, Evo Morales, in his capacity as President and leader of the party, personally chaired some crucial meetings of the CONALCAM. The presidential leadership of the social organizations united in the CONALCAM helped to put content in the phrase that Morales constantly cites — mandar obedeciendo, or lead by obeying — even if the result of these deliberations was the imposition of the president’s decision.[16] On the other hand, this action emptied of its content the republican democratic principle of the president as representative of the nation as a whole.

The culminating moment of the CONALCAM was also the beginning of its decline, since after the march on Santa Cruz it carried out no other major public intervention in the national process. Asked about this situation, García Linera explained:

“The point of bifurcation is the exceptional moment, of short duration, basic but decisive, in which ‘the Prince’ abandons the language of seduction and imposes himself through his warlike tactics of coercion… It was a warlike or potentially warlike moment. The pro-coup right carried out its consultations and gradually initiated the formation of small regional powers that did not recognize the government. We understood that signal and we deployed in an encirclement strategy as the military calls it. Both through the coercive mechanisms of the state and through the social mobilization…. The forcefulness and firmness of the political-military response of the government to the coup, along with the strategy of social mobilization in and towards Santa Cruz, created a virtuous ‘state-society’ articulation seldom seen in the political history of Bolivia.”[17]

The national mechanism of participation and social control. The new Constitution institutionalizes corporate participation in decision-making by a part of society.[18] To that effect, it establishes a supra-state organ that assumes the supervisory functions in an undefined — and accordingly arbitrary — juridical framework. From another perspective, which pays more attention to the process than to the norm, what we observe is a domestication of the social organizations on the basis of a strategy of fragmentation and appropriation of political and organizational initiative.

To incorporate the social movements in the state following the approval of the Constitution, the government created the Mecanismo Nacional de Participación y Control Social, under the Ministry of Transparency and the Fight Against Corruption, as the governmental authority responsible for carrying forward the process of participation of “organized society.”

Thus, the right to participation is restricted to the organized sectors, which in order to be such must be recognized by the state.[19] How does participation operate? Each ministry or state division convenes the social organizations that it considers relevant to a meeting with an established agenda. This institutionalization of participation of civil society can be viewed from two perspectives. From the perspective of the state, what we now have is organized, calibrated participation in which the government defines the agenda. From the perspective of society, the social organizations are convened at state initiative and when they participate they do so in a fragmented form.

In the 1990s, the Law of Popular Participation signified the territorial decentralization of power and posed the challenge of decentralization of political action, in the context of a heavily corporate society that was accustomed to negotiating with the state in a centralized scenario. It was in this setting that the second mass party in Bolivia’s republican history arose, in tune with the municipal decentralization and single-seat electoral constituencies. The emerging party, the MAS, was a peasant party that today confronts the challenge of the exercise of power and must fight against a corporativismo that emerged with great momentum as a result of the decisive role it played at the high point of the social empowerment. Once the moment when the social movement held the political initiative had passed, it was followed by the moment of its symbolic incorporation in the Constitution. When the symbol is translated into governmental practice, in the Mecanismo Nacional de Participación y Control Social, we find that it promises little in terms of social control but even less in terms of democratic participation.

Returning to the question posed at the beginning: What happens when the soviets retreat? The Bolivian reality shows that it is replaced with the time of the caudillo and a state that is uncomfortable with republican limits.

Moira Zuazo is a Bolivian political scientist, author of various books and articles published in Bolivia, Argentina and Germany. She is a professor at the Universidad Mayor de San Andrés and project coordinator for the Fundación Friedrich Ebert in Bolivia. Among her major publications are ¿Cómo nació el MAS? La ruralización de la política en Bolivia (Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung, La Paz, 2009) and, with Luis Verdesoto, Instituciones en boca de la gente. Percepciones de la ciudadanía boliviana sobre política y territorio (Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung / Ildis, La Paz, 2006).


[1] Pablo Stefanoni, Franklin Ramírez and Maristella Svampa, Las vías de la emancipación. Conversaciones con Álvaro García Linera, Ocean Sur, México, DF, 2009, p. 92.

[2] Fernando Calderón and Alicia Szmukler, La política en las calles: política, urbanización y desarrollo, Universidad Andina Simón Bolívar, Quito, 2000.

[3] M. Zuazo, ¿Cómo nació el MAS? La ruralización de la política en Bolivia, 2nd edition, Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung / Ildis, La Paz, 2009.

[4] The recall referendum differed from a general election in a multiparty system like Bolivia’s. In the recall referendum the voter has only two options, to approve or reject the authority subject to recall, while in multiparty systems there are three or more options, which tends to disperse the vote.

[5] Maurice Duverger, Los partidos políticos, FCE, México, DF, 1994.

[6] The Organic Statute of the MAS, in article 9, provides that “members and sympathizers participate in the organic life of the Party through their natural organizations.” Source: Corte Nacional Electoral.

[7] P. Stefanoni, F. Ramírez and M. Svampa, op. cit., p. 90.

[8] Participating in this agreement were all the campesino and indigenous sectors: the Confederación Sindical Única de Trabajadores Campesinos de Bolivia (CSUTCB), the Confederación de Pueblos Indígenas de Bolivia (CIDOB), the Confederación Sindical de Colonizadores de Bolivia (CSCB), the Federación Nacional de Mujeres Indígenas, Originarias y Campesinas de Bolivia Bartolina Sisa (FNMCB-BS), el Consejo Nacional de Markas y Ayllus del Qullasuyu (CONAMAQ), the Coordinadora de Pueblos Étnicos de Santa Cruz (CPESC), the Movimiento de Trabajadores Campesinos Sin Tierra de Bolivia (MST-B), the Asamblea del Pueblo Guaraní (APG), the Central de Pueblos Étnicos Mojeños del Beni (CPEMB) and the Asociación Nacional de Regantes y Sistemas Comunitarios de Agua Potable y Saneamiento (ANARESCAPYS). Source: Centro de Comunicación y Desarrollo Andino (CENDA), Centro de Estudios Jurídicos e Investigación Social (CEJIS) and the Centro de Documentación e Información Bolivia (CEDIB), <www.constituyentesoberana.org>.

[9] La Razón, 23/01/2007.

[10] The Federación de Trabajadoras del Hogar, the Confederación de Jubilados and an organization of unemployed in Tarija. Source: La Razón, 24/01/2007.

[11] Added to it were the Central Obrera Boliviana (COB); neighborhood councils; guilds; students and members of cooperatives. Source: La Razón, 17/09/2008.

[12] This was a regional opposition with its geographic center in Santa Cruz de la Sierra. It differed from the political opposition of national scope expressed in the major opposition parties, Podemos and Unidad Nacional (UN). A part of the political opposition — the UN and some Podemos members of the Assembly — tried to promote an agreement in the Assembly, and later reached a parliamentary agreement to adjust the text of the draft constitution and to call for a consultative referendum for approval of the new Constitution.

[13] Faced with the inability of the Constituent Assembly to meet in the city of Sucre, owing to the opposition of the local social movement supported by the civic-regional opposition, which was demanding that the seat of all state powers be transferred to Sucre (making it the sole capital), the Constituent Assembly moved to a military school on the outskirts of Sucre and on November 23-24, 2007 approved the new Constitution as a whole without the presence of the opposition. This final session of the Assembly in Chuquisaca met amidst fierce confrontations between police and military forces and the social movement of Sucre, resulting in the death of three civilians in the area around the military school where the Assembly was meeting, which is called “La Calancha.”

[14] In the recall referendum of August 10, 2008, the MAS was supported by 64% of the voters.

[15] The most important siege of the Congress was carried out on February 28, 2008 to prevent the opposition from entering the Parliament and to force approval of three decisive laws, including the law calling a referendum to approve the [final version of the] Constitution. Source: La Razón, 29/02/2008.

[16] Fernando Mayorga, “Evo: ¿liderazgo sin fronteras?” in Umbrales vol. 1, No. 19, 9/2009, pp. 119-133.

[17] P. Stefanoni, F. Ramírez and M. Svampa, op. cit., pp. 95-96, 98.

[18] Section 241, sub-section II, states: “The organized civil society shall exercise social control over the public administration at all levels of the State and the private, mixed and public enterprises and institutions that administer fiscal resources.” Sub-section VI provides that “the state entities shall create spaces for participation and social control.”

[19] Any social organization, to be recognized as that, must have a certificate of origin, which is the legal status granted by the departmental government.